“There’s a part of you that’s disappointed,” he said. “I’m sure a lot of people were disappointed tonight not being able to watch two of the best teams in the league play.”
True. But in reality people understand. Well, maybe no one understands Popovich resting all of the Big Three on the same night. But the point is he can do whatever he wants with his team.
The Heat had a “maintenance program” with Wade last season. That’s what they called it. Everybody else said they were resting Wade for the playoffs. That wasn’t a big deal.
It would have been a huge deal if the Heat would have rested its Big Three during a national TV game, however. I get that. They’re the Heat, and it’s national TV. But the NBA, via Stern, wouldn’t be justified getting involved.
Resting star players in November isn’t going to become a league-wide trend unless it’s somehow wildly successful for the Spurs. And how do you quantify that? The Spurs are an aging team. So is Boston. It’s reasonable they might want to rest players. Pop has been doing this for a while. It’s not reasonable for Oklahoma City or Orlando to rest players. They’re young teams.
Besides, there aren’t many teams that can basically afford to give away possible victories. Playoff seeding is too important. Familiarity is too important. This won’t become a trend.
Remember when people thought high school kids would go to Europe instead of college because Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings did it? It didn’t happen. Everybody can’t do it, and few want to do it.
Accordingly, don’t be fooled by that faulty slippery slope argument that starts off, “What if every team decided to do it?” It’s not going to happen. Everybody can’t do it, and few want to do it.
Now, if you want to go off on a “competitive balance of the league” rant, I’ll listen. Clearly having teams rest their best players against their toughest opponents cuts to the NBA’s integrity. You can’t have Team A look at their schedule, decide they have no chance of beating, say, the Knicks in New York because Team A is playing their fourth game in five nights, and that becomes the impetus for Team A resting its top players.
Thursday’s game was the finale of a six-game road swing of which San Antonio already had won five times. If the Spurs were 2-3 on this trip I’m guessing their Big Three would have played Thursday.
Yes, Popovich was being somewhat of a jerk by sending his Big Three – and Green – home together. I admit that. He could have rested one or two of them. He could have rested them Wednesday night in Orlando. Pop chose to do this because, let’s face it, that’s the kind of guy he is.
But Stern can handle this through back channels. He doesn’t have to issue statements that threaten “substantial sanctions.” TNT would probably love to see penalties levied against the Spurs. They were hurt by Pop’s decision. But they’re the only ones with reason to hate.
Chris Perkins is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com, covering the NBA and the Miami Heat. His columns regularly appear every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter.